contemporary art

At the gallery, a clue or two might help

Sometimes we need a little information before we can connect to art, and curators can help

By JENNIFER RABIN

In this month’s group show at PDX Contemporary, I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees, a tangled piece of black cord hangs on a wall opposite two white ceramic elephants, encrusted with gold roses, that sit atop a pedestal. 3D pieces in various media fill the gallery with no discernible relationship to one another. My experience was similarly decontextualized when I went to see A Marginal Tic at Fourteen30 Contemporary, where a curiously naïve vessel was shown alongside dripping abstract sculptures and paintings on linen. No information was provided, in either gallery, about the work itself or why the pieces were grouped together. I left both exhibitions scratching my head, without any connection to the work at all.

I am an arts writer, so I can easily write eight hundred words about the rhythm and texture and use of negative space of a tangled piece of cord or an abstract ceramic form. But a formal understanding of a piece of art won’t make me care about it. And I really want to care.

The problem is not unique to these two galleries. It’s a holdover from the white box philosophy of modernism. But in the 21st century, when a gallery presents work without providing information about it, it feels like a hostile act, because the purpose of art has always been to communicate. When a gallery goes out of its way to be opaque, we should ask ourselves why.

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Fragments in Time: James B. Thompson’s elusive artistic journey

The new exhibition at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art follows the Salem artist's independent trail over twenty years through time, space, and ideas

James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time, a twenty-year retrospective of paintings, prints, drawings, and fused glass by the notable Oregon artist, opens Saturday, January 23, at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, where it continues through March 26. The exhibition is arranged in eleven series of work, beginning in 1995 and continuing through 2015. Bob Hicks wrote the essay for the accompanying catalog. Here, we excerpt its passages on the first series in the exhibition, “Certain Situations,” created 1995-1997.

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The world of James B. Thompson is a mindscape of bits and pieces waiting to be rearranged. It holds fragments of history and shards of place. Fleeting thoughts, broken connections, surviving evidences of cultures and ways of thinking buried deep in time. It’s a destination of transformations and sly jokes about the universe’s constant state of change: as he wryly puts it, the fragmentary is so becoming. His art ranges across continents of possibilities, assembling and creating contemporary beauty out of evidences of things past. The ritual sites of prehistoric Picts. The game of golf. Disappearing landscapes. French village life. The medieval sense of space, forgotten hand tools, the way that glass can be like a map. …

"The Visitation," 1996, acrylic with mixed media on paper, 31 x 27”, (framed dimensions), courtesy of the artist. Photo: Dale Peterson.

“The Visitation,” 1996, acrylic with mixed media on paper, 31 x 27”, (framed dimensions), courtesy of the artist. Photo: Dale Peterson.

The first series in this twenty-year retrospective rises, as so much of Thompson’s mature work does, partly from his visits to Scotland. It also marks the fruition of twenty years of earlier work, developing his themes and styles, discovering the future of his own art. That future wound through the world of medieval art, then back again to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

For most of his career to this point, Thompson had been a committed abstractionist, surfing in his independent way the waves of modern and contemporary movements. Here, he stuck with contemporary theories of color and space, but added figures, not so much for their emotional impact (although the figure of Death, for instance, is fraught with implications), but as added shapes and suggestions to be shuffled into place on the plane of canvas or paper. It seemed a minor shift: he wasn’t adopting an Andrew Wyeth sort of realism, or even a Francis Bacon−style contorted figurism. Yet it represented a personal leap forward through a giant leap backward.

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June is upon us and this month marks a full year of monthly gallery guides from yours truly. With any luck the sun will come back out, but don’t forget to stop by some galleries and see some art not matter the weather! I hope you once again find something interesting to see and consider in my totally biased art selection, and if not share what you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

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june.press.small_500Nationale – Katie Batten, Jonathan Casella, and Sarah Mikenis— the three young artists on view in Nationale’s group painting exhibition Everything We Ever Wanted— explore the friction between artifice and authenticity as it transpires into explosions of color and pattern appropriated not from magazine pages, but the Internet’s undulating stream of imagery. Opening reception Wednesday, June 3 from 6-8pm. Through June 29th.

unnamed (2)Adams and Ollman – Presents a two person show of landscapes by Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum. Joan Nelson emphasizes Oregon geography, while Yoakum’s work features the places he’s traveled to around the world. This will be an opportunity to put the Oregon landscape tradition in broader conversation with ways of looking and defining place through painting. First Thursday reception June 4th. Through July 11th.

 

 

 

yoonhee1Blackfish Gallery – For over a decade, Yoonhee Choi has explored the potential of diminutive, mass-produced materials such as bread clips to express multiple scales of spatial experience and intimate, personal associations. In TRAWLING she continues her sensitive searchings into the possibilities of these materials—trailing a metaphorical fishing net behind her wherever she goes. First Thursday reception June 4th. Through June 28th.

 

 

 

Todd FF Image

 

 

False Front – Todd Johnson’s latest work features malt liquors and cold cuts. On the surface the work looks quite literal, but in person there is bound to a more elaborate metaphor and Johnson’s dark humor will give it an edge of social critique. From here the work gives off a Warholian air, so the work will be undoubtedly interesting in person. Opening Reception: Saturday, June 13, 6 – 9pm. Through July 12th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PICA – Rounding out the month, No Boundaries presents the work of nine trailblazing Aboriginal artists who were inspired by their ancient cultural traditions to forge one of the most dynamic painting movements of recent times. Created at the frontier where Indigenous and Western cultures meet, these paintings speak across cultures, a reminder that contemporary art comes from all corners of the globe. Although rarely seen in the U.S., these artists stand at the vanguard of global contemporary art practice. Mason Erhman Building Annex, 467 NW Davis. Opening Reception June 20th at 7pm. Through August 20th.

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Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have intriguing shows beyond the scope of this brief guide:

Portland Art Dealers Association Galleries and Alliance Members

Duplex Collective’s Gallery Guide

Don’t forget to mention the shows you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

May is MFA season Gallery Guide

MFA exhibitions around town, Kyle Simon at the Museum of Modern Art and more...

May is MFA exhibition season here in Portland, and the University of Oregon and the Oregon College of Art and Craft are out in full force. Between the two institutions they fill four galleries: White Box, Disjecta, Upfor, and PDX Contemporary.

MFA exhibitions are difficult to curate and difficult to write about because while we want to find something in common between these artists who have been living and working together for years now, there very often isn’t beyond that fact and that they’re all in the same room together. And that’s a good thing because if they were all similar it would have meant their creative vision was subsumed by the group experience, when what they attended the program for is the opportunity to refine their individuality.

I recommend you go to these exhibitions to see what kind of art is coming out of these programs and if you like it. Take the curatorial essays with a grain of salt but do read them. Like an iceberg, a great deal of the artistic process is beyond our view, and these exhibitions reveal a great deal that we might not otherwise see. It’s the coming months and years that will make or break these artists’ careers and the fun is watching their trajectories.

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White box second yearWhite Box – The eight master of fine art graduate students in their second year of candidacy share “an interest in the constructed environment” according to Megan Pounds who wrote the catalog essay, “which naturally manifests itself differently in every practice.” Either the viewer enters an unfolding narrative, or they finds themselves immersed in an environment constructed by the artist. I believe this means there will be some interesting installation work in this exhibition. The artists are Anya Dikareva, Summer Gray, Krista Heinitz, Steven Joshlin, Daniel P. Lopez, Sarah Mikenis, Stephen Nachtigall, and Rachel Widomski. First Thursday Opening Reception, May 7 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm.

 

Disjecta MFA

Disjecta – The culminating work of ten candidates for the master of fine arts program at the University of Oregon are exhibited without “strict physical boundaries demarcating the end of one artist’s work and the beginning of another’s in this exhibition.” Translation: don’t expect wall labels, but look forward to a map of the exhibition instead. Christie Hajela also discuss the “Derridean conception of différance” in her catalog essay for the show. The artists are Farhad Bahram, Fei Chen, Matt Christy, Alex Krajkowski, Anne Magratten, Andrew Oslovar, Brandon Siscoe, Megan St. Clair, John Tolles, and Jessie Rose Vala. Opening reception Friday, May 8 from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

 

Through The Wind Shield by Morgan Buck, 2015; muslin, acrylic, organza, wire mesh, and pins; 85 x 70 x 48 inches. Courtesy the artist and OCAC. Photo by Jason Horvath.

Through The Wind Shield by Morgan Buck, 2015; muslin, acrylic, organza, wire mesh, and pins; 85 x 70 x 48 inches. Courtesy the artist and OCAC. Photo by Jason Horvath.

Upfor and PDX ContemporaryWITH/AND, the Oregon College of Art and Craft’s inaugural Thesis Exhibition of the MFA in Craft. “With” implies merging (coffee with cream) while “And” conveys a quality of autonomous association (salt and pepper). WITH/AND explores the intersectional nature of Art and Craft, revealing a space where ill-defined boundaries touch or blur. Featuring work by Amanda Beekhuizen, Brittany Britton, Morgan Buck, Daniel Harris, Megan Harris, Jason Horvath, Colin Kippen, Nicole McCormick and Amy Turnbull. Opening reception on Friday, May 15 from 6:00 to 8:00pm. Through May 27.

 

Kyle Simon at MoMAMuseum of Modern Art – While participating in a residency in the south of France, Kyle Simon became intrigued by the network of archaeological cave-sites in the surrounding areas. The image of cave exploration took root in his psyche, and developed into an exhibition, The Catacombs. Inspired by archaeoacoustics, the study of sound as a methodological approach in archaeology, Simon explores the translation of vibrations into sound, and acoustic content contained in ancient artifacts. The centerpiece of the show is a machine built by the artist to record sound waves onto ceramic objects. Opening reception Friday May 8 at 8pm. Through June 20.

 

An installation of Willem Oorebeek’s Blackouts, as documented in the newspaper, De Witte Raaf.

An installation of Willem Oorebeek’s Blackouts, as documented in the newspaper, De Witte Raaf.

Yale Union – Closing out the month is the first solo exhibition in the United States of work by Willem Oorebeek. The artist reflects on the representation of the human figure in The Vertical Club by cutting out certain personalities from print media, re-printing them lithographically at warped scale, and pasting directly onto gallery walls. Meanwhile in BLACKOUT, he overprints existing publicity images, covers, and pages from magazines and newspapers, with a coat of black lithographic ink. This ink makes the image only visible when the light on the black surface is seen from a particular angle. The suppression of an image’s function or look contributes to making these ubiquitous images more visible, so that we look with greater attention. Opening reception Saturday, May 30. Through July 19.

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Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have intriguing shows beyond the scope of this brief guide:

Portland Art Dealers Association Galleries and Alliance Members

Duplex Collective’s Gallery Guide

Don’t forget to mention the shows you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

Skinny Dip: Lisa Rybovich Crallé at Hap Gallery

Sculptures and collages channeling tropical foliage, coral reefs and Caribbean culture

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I had a huge grin on my face as soon as I walked into Hap Gallery this past First Thursday. My first impressions were of Dr. Seuss, Teletubbies, and Oompa Loompas, which made sense when I learned she “channels her South Florida roots by using colors reminiscent of tropical foliage, coral reefs, and Caribbean culture.” I got to meet and have a great conversation with the artist, Lisa Ryobvich Crallé, who told me a bit about the performance aspect she’s creating to go with the sculptural works. I imagine performers in costumes as equally luminous and strange as her sculptures roaming the fantastical, tropical Eden she’s created. The works on paper are abstract collages of cut-out shapes painted with water color,  and the soft layering of pigments create landscapes full of purple bamboo and cotton-candy pink rivers. Lisa’s getting recognition in shows and accolades so if you’re inclined I’d definitely grab a piece of her work sooner rather than later, and then please invite me over so I can see it!

To see more of her work check out Hap’s website and Facebook, or go see it in person. Skinny Dip, featuring sculptures and drawings by Lisa Rybovich Crallé, is on view at Hap Gallery, 916 NW Flanders Street, through Saturday, February 28th.

 
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